1980–2000: Early life and career beginnings
T.I. was born Clifford Joseph Harris Jr. on September 25, 1980, in Riverdale, Georgia, the son of the late Clifford "Buddy" Harris Sr. and Violeta Morgan. He was raised by his grandparents in Bankhead, Atlanta, Georgia. His father lived in New York and he would often go up there to visit him. His father suffered from Alzheimer's and later died from the disease. T.I. began rapping at age nine. He attended Douglass High School, but later dropped out. As a teenager, he was a drug dealer. He was once known as Rubber Band Man, a reference to the custom of wearing rubber bands around the wrist to denote wealth in terms of drugs or money. By age 14, he had been arrested several times. He was nicknamed "Tip" after his paternal great-grandfather. Kawan "KP" Prather, a record executive, discovered and signed T.I. when he was a teenager. Upon signing with Arista Records subsidiary LaFace Records in 2001, he shortened his name to T.I. out of respect for label mate Q-Tip.
2001–02: I'm Serious
T.I. released his debut album, I'm Serious, in October 2001 through Arista Records. The album spawned the eponymous single, which featured Jamaican reggae entertainer Beenie Man. His debut single, "I'm Serious," was released on June 26, 2001. The single received little airplay and failed to chart. The album included guests appearances from Pharrell Williams of The Neptunes (who called him "the Jay-Z of the South"), Jazze Pha, Too Short, Bone Crusher, Lil Jon, Pastor Troy, P$C and YoungBloodZ. The album featured production from The Neptunes, DJ Toomp, Madvac, and The Grand Hustle Team. Despite the album's guests appearances and production team, the album peaked at number 98 and only sold 163,000 copies in the United States. Critics pointed to the fact that many of the tracks sounded the same and that a few were blatant rip-offs. Other critics commented saying, "T.I. claims to be the king of the South, but fails to show and prove. He does, however, have potential. If his talent ever matches his confidence, he may be headed for stardom."
Due to the poor commercial reception of the album, T.I. was dropped from Arista Records. He then formed Grand Hustle Entertainment and started releasing several mixtapes with the assistance of DJ Drama. He resurfaced in the summer of 2003 with fellow Atlanta rapper and former label-mate Bone Crusher's song "Never Scared." His mixtapes and mainstream exposure from "Never Scared" eventually recaptured major label attention and he signed a joint venture deal with Atlantic Records.
2003–05: Trap Muzik and Urban Legend
T.I. released his second album Trap Muzik on August 19, 2003 through Grand Hustle Records; it debuted at number four and sold 109,000 copies in its first week. It spawned the singles "24s", "Be Easy", "Rubberband Man", and "Let's Get Away". The album featured guest appearances by 8Ball & MJG, Jazze Pha, Bun B and Macboney and was produced by Jazze Pha, Kanye West, David Banner, Madvac and DJ Toomp. In March 2004, a warrant was issued for T.I.'s arrest after he violated his probation of a 1997 drug conviction. He was sentenced to three years in prison. While imprisoned in Cobb County, Georgia, he filmed an unauthorized music video. One month later, he was allowed a work release program.
T.I. was on probation stemming from a 1998 conviction for violating a state controlled substances act and for giving false information. After being released on probation, he earned a litany of probation violations in several counties around Georgia for offenses ranging from possession of a firearm to possession of marijuana. In 2006, after appearing in an Atlanta court on (May 10) and having charges that he threatened a man outside a strip club last year dropped for lack of evidence, T.I. was arrested on an outstanding probation violation warrant from Florida. The warrant claimed that T.I. did not complete the required number of community service hours he was sentenced for a 2003 assault of a female sheriff deputy at University Mall in Tampa. T.I. was detained by several mall Security Guards at the time of the incident. According to WSB-TV Atlanta, the rapper’s attorney said that the problem was nothing more than a "technical matter" between Georgia and Florida. The confusion arose because T.I. was also sentenced to community service in Georgia for driving with a suspended license, for which he did complete 75 hours of community service in his home state. The rapper was released on bail shortly after being arrested, and was expected to surrender to Florida state authorities the following week to resolve the matter.
T.I. released his third studio album, Urban Legend, in November 2004. It debuted at number seven on the Billboard 200, selling 193,000 copies in its first week. The album's official lead single, "Bring Em Out", was released in January 2005 and became his first top ten hit, peaking at number nine on the Billboard Hot 100, while the second single "U Don't Know Me" peaked at number twenty-three on the Billboard Hot 100. His third single "ASAP" reached number 75 on the U.S. charts, number 18 on the U.S. R&B/Hip-Hop charts and number 14 on the Rap chart. T.I. created a video for "ASAP"/"Motivation". However, "Motivation" only made it to number 62 on the U.S. R&B/Hip-Hop singles chart. He was featured in Destiny's Child's 2004 single "Soldier" along with Lil Wayne, peaking at number three on the U.S. Hot 100 and the U.S. R&B Charts.
In 2006, T.I. received two Grammy Award nominations for Best Song Collaboration ("Soldier" w/ Destiny's Child & Lil Wayne) and Best Rap Solo Performance for "U Don't Know Me" at The 48th Grammy Awards. That same year he won Rap Artist of the Year, Rap Album Of The Year, Rap Album Artist Of The Year, Rap Song Artist of the Year and Video Clip Artist of the Year on the Billboard Music Award and Best Male Hip-Hop Artist on the BET Awards.
2006–07: King, T.I. vs. T.I.P. and federal weapons charges
T.I.'s fourth album, King, debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 chart in the first half of 2006, selling 522,000 copies in its first week. T.I. released "Front Back" and "Ride with Me" as promotional singles prior to the release of the album. The singles garnered little attention, but helped to promote not only the album, but also ATL. The album also included the singles, "What You Know," "Why You Wanna," and "Live in the Sky," plus a remix of "Top Back." King earned numerous awards and nominations including a Grammy Award nomination for Best Rap Album. He was also featured in the single "Shoulder Lean" by Young Dro reaching the top ten on the U.S. Hot 100 and #1 on the U.S. Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and Hot Rap Tracks.
"What You Know" won a Grammy Award for Best Rap Solo Performance and was nominated for Best Rap Song at the 49th Grammy Awards. Also that year, T.I. collaborated with Justin Timberlake for "My Love," which proved to be a worldwide hit, and won a Grammy Award for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration with Justin Timberlake at the 49th Annual Grammy Awards and also won Best Male Hip-Hop Artist at the BET Awards for the second straight time. He then served as a featured performer on "We Takin' Over" by DJ Khaled also featuring Akon, Fat Joe, Rick Ross, Birdman and Lil Wayne.
T.I. released his fifth album, T.I. vs. T.I.P., on July 3, 2007. The first single from the album was "Big Shit Poppin' (Do It)," which was produced by Mannie Fresh and was released to radio stations on April 17, 2007. The second single, "You Know What It Is" featuring Wyclef Jean, was released June 12, 2007. T.I. vs. T.I.P. sold 468,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan, and debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 and the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. It was T.I.'s second chart-topper in a row: King opened at number one on the Billboard 200 with 522,000 copies in late March 2006. The album included guest performances by Jay-Z, Busta Rhymes, Wyclef Jean, Nelly, and Eminem, and production by Eminem, Jeff Bass, Mannie Fresh, Grand Hustle, The Runners, Just Blaze, Wyclef Jean and Danja. Absent from this album's production lineup were T.I.'s longtime producer DJ Toomp and The Neptunes. In October 2007, T.I. released his third single, "Hurt," featuring Busta Rhymes and Alfamega.
On October 13, 2007, federal authorities arrested T.I. four hours before the BET Hip-Hop Awards in Atlanta. He was charged with two felonies — possession of three unregistered machine guns and two silencers, and possession of firearms by a convicted felon. The arrest was made in the parking lot of a downtown shopping center, which a witness identified as the Walgreens drug store at the corner of North and Piedmont Avenues. T.I. was arrested after allegedly trying to purchase the guns from a "cooperating witness" with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. According to federal officials, the witness had been cooperating with authorities a few days prior to the T.I. arrest, when the cooperating witness was arrested on charges of trying to purchase guns from a federal agent. The witness had been working as T.I.'s bodyguard since July, authorities said. T.I. walked out of the Atlanta United States District Court after appearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Alan J. Baverman on October 26, 2007. Judge Alan J. Baverman required T.I. post a $3 million bond, $2 million in cash and $1 million in equity on property he owns. The rapper was required to remain at home except for medical appointments and court appearances. The only people allowed to live with him were his girlfriend and children. Visitors were required to be approved by the court.
2008–09: Paper Trail and prison sentence
T.I.'s suppression hearing was scheduled for February 19, 2008. The performer later pleaded guilty to U.S. federal weapons charges. He was sentenced to an undefined prison sentence, a year of house arrest and 1,500 hours of community service. In an interview with MTV about serving prison time, T.I. stated, "Presumably, while I'm there, I'll be able to strategize my comeback." He went on to say that he would not "just be sitting still doing nothing". At that time T.I. collaborated with Mariah Carey on the "I'll Be Lovin' U Long Time" remix, peaking at number 58 on the U.S. Hot 100 and number 36 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs.
T.I.'s second single from his sixth studio album Paper Trail.
|Problems listening to this file? See media help.|
While under house arrest, T.I. began writing lyrics down on paper for his following album. The first promotional single from the album, "No Matter What," was released in April 2008. The music video was released on June 2008 on MTV's FN Premieres. The second promotional single was "Swing Ya Rag" which was produced by and featured Swizz Beatz. The official lead single was "Whatever You Like," was released on July 2008, and became his most successful single of his career so far, breaking the record for the highest jump to number one on the Billboard Hot 100, jumping from number 71 to number one. Also becoming T.I.'s first solo number one on the chart. While "Whatever You Like" was number one, "Weird Al" Yankovic did a parody of T.I.'s song called "Whatever You Like", the same title as the song by T.I. He released his sixth album, Paper Trail, in September 2008. The title of the album refers to the lyrics he had written down on paper. Like many other rappers, T.I. abandoned this style of rapping after his debut album I'm Serious by just memorizing lyrics. His representative explain that T.I. wanted to "take more time to really put something down [this time]". The album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 selling 568,000 copies in the United States.
The second single from the album, "Swagga Like Us", featuring Kanye West, Jay-Z and Lil Wayne, debuted and peaked at number five on the Billboard Hot 100. With the third single "Live Your Life" featuring Rihanna, T.I. broke his own record on the Billboard Hot 100 when it jumped from number 80 to the number one. The fourth single "Dead and Gone", featuring Justin Timberlake, peaked at number two for five weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, eventually going on to be nominated during the 52nd Grammy Awards for both "Best Rap/Sung Collaboration" and "Best Rap Song". During the 51st Grammy Awards, he was nominated for four Grammy Awards, eventually winning Best Rap Performance by a Duo Or a Group for "Swagga Like Us". "Remember Me", featuring Mary J. Blige, was released digitally on July 7, 2009. It was the planned first single off the re-release of T.I.'s sixth studio album, "Paper Trail", but the re-release was eventually shelved. The single peaked at number 29 on the Billboard Hot 100. On October 6, "Hell of a Life" was released digitally and went on to peak at number 54 on the Billboard Hot 100. In 2009, T.I. appeared as himself on an episode of Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List. On the episode, he took the comedienne to Roscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles in LA and gave her a lesson on how to "swagger."
On November 21, 2008, T.I. testified in the murder trial of a member of his entourage and a close friend, Philant Johnson (1980–2006), who was murdered in a shooting that occurred after a post-concert party at a club. T.I. has dedicated several songs to Johnson, from the single version of "Live in the Sky" to his more recent hit "Dead and Gone" where Johnson's grave can be seen in the video.
On March 27, 2009, U.S. District Judge Charles A. Pannell, Jr. sentenced T.I. to one year and one day in prison and ordered to pay $100,300 for federal weapons charges; T.I. had his sentence reduced from a maximum 10 years and a $250,000 fine with a plea bargain. On May 26, 2009, T.I. began serving his sentence in Forrest City, Arkansas. Two days prior to being imprisoned, T.I. performed a farewell concert at the Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia. T.I. was released from FCC Forrest City on December 22, 2009 and was moved into a halfway house in Atlanta. T.I. had the Federal Bureau of Prisons ID 59458-019 and was released from CCM Atlanta on March 26, 2010. After his release from prison, he was subjected to an audit of his finances, drug counseling, DNA testing, and random searches of his property.
2010–2011: No Mercy and drug charges
On March 26, 2010, T.I. was released from the halfway house. He was in the studio working on his seventh studio album titled King Uncaged. Jim Jonsin, the producer who previously worked with him on his single, "Whatever You Like" and R&B singer Trey Songz, were scheduled to work on the project.
T.I. made his first public appearance since prison, stepping out with then fiancée Tameka "Tiny" Cottle in support of her Alzheimer's research fundraiser "For the Love of Our Fathers" at Atlanta's Opera venue. "I am very well, very happy to be seen," said T.I., who joined Cottle onstage at the end of the benefit. T.I. released a new street single titled "I'm Back" on March 8, 2010. The single peaked at #44 on Billboard's Hot 100 charts. Around this time, he made a featured guest appearance on Diddy-Dirty Money's single "Hello Good Morning" where the single peaked at #27 in US and charted internationally in eight other countries.
He also made a guest appearance on Larry King Live on May 13 to discuss with Larry King about his nine-month prison term on federal gun charges and other topics. T.I. released a promotional soundtrack single entitled, "Yeah Ya Know (Takers)" on May 24. It peaked at number forty-four on Billboard Hot 100 and number sixty-eight on Canadian Hot 100. T.I. released another promotional single entitled; "Got Your Back" which featured American R&B singer Keri Hilson and it peaked at number thirty-eight in the US. Later, T.I. made more featured single appearances such as Jamie Foxx's single "Winner" featuring Justin Timberlake and Drake's single "Fancy" which it featured Swizz Beatz. Both singles made an impact on the Billboard charts peaking at the top 50.
T.I. released a mixtape entitled "Fuck a Mixtape"; the move was somewhat controversial, due to its title with many feeling he was insulting the Mixtape format. T.I. has addressed the issue by stating that it was a response to all the people who told him to just focus on an album and not on a mixtape. T.I. further defended his decision to release a mixtape by saying: "I already have 60, 70 songs. A lot of these songs are period pieces that speak volumes to what's going on right now. If I hold onto them next year or the year after, they'll be dated, because my life will be in another direction. If I'm not gonna put it on the album — and they all can't make the album — then they might as well have another platform to present it to the world".
On September 1, T.I. and his wife Tiny were arrested on drug charges in Los Angeles. The arrest for drug charges led to T.I. being sentenced on October 15, 2010 to 11 months in prison for violating the terms of his probation, specifically for possessing ecstasy, testing positive for opiates and associating with a convicted felon. On October 25, the drug charges against T.I. were dropped.
T.I. changed the title of his seventh studio album and renamed it No Mercy due to his new prison sentencing. He then released the first single from the newly titled album, "Get Back Up" featuring Chris Brown on the same day that he was sentenced back to prison for violating the terms of his probation. "Get Back Up" peaked at number seventy in the US. On November 1, T.I. reported back to the Forrest City Federal Facility to serve his 11-month sentence. His date of release was set to be September 29, 2011.
No Mercy was released on December 7, 2010. The album peaked at number four in the US and it sold over 159,000 copies in its first week. RIAA certified No Mercy Gold with over 500,000 copies sold. His second and last single off the album "That's All She Wrote" featuring Eminem was released on December 19 and it peaked at number eightteen in the US.
T.I. was nominated for two Grammy Awards for Best Rap Solo Performance for "I'm Back" and Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group (Fancy with Drake and Swizz Beatz) at the 53rd Grammy Awards. He was also nominated for a Soul Train Music Award for Best Hip Hop Song of the Year for "Got Your Back" and he earned three BET Hip Hop Awards nominations for Hustler of the Year, Made You Look Award, and Best Club Banger for "Hello Good Morning" w/Diddy-Dirty Money.
In early June 2011, T.I. said in a letter: "I’ll be releasing a record in the near future (couple of weeks tops) to hold y’all over til I get back in action." On June 30, 2011, a new song was released onto T.I.'s official website and on his official YouTube channel - titled "We Don't Get Down Like Y'all", which features fellow Grand Hustle rapper B.o.B on the hook. While commenting on the song, T.I. said in another letter; "It's a song that I did soon after my release last time. What inspired me to write this record was the differences in how we do us and how they do them suddenly became incredibly evident in just a very short period of time." It was originally only available on Atlantic Records's online store. The song was available on iTunes and other vendors, such as Spotify on August 9 and it peaked at number seventy-eight in the US.
On August 31, T.I. was released from Forrest City Correctional Facility in Arkansas at 7:29 a.m. and was sent to a community living facility to serve out the rest of his 11 month prison sentence. He then released a statement on Twitter saying: "The storm is over & da sun back out. IT'S OUR TIME TO SHINE SHAWTY!!!!! Welcome to the beginning of our Happy Ending!!!!" He recently inked a deal with VH1 for a new reality show that will follow him as he re-adjusts to life as a free man after the incarceration and he's also working on a book entitled, "Power & Beauty" which was set to be released in October. He was sent back to federal custody on September 1, less than 48 hours after his release due to a dispute involving T.I. taking a luxury bus from a prison in Arkansas to a halfway house facility in Atlanta. T.I.'s attorney, Steve Sadow, told the Associated Press that the Federal Bureau of Prisons has moved T.I. to a different facility and clarified that the dispute was not drug related. T.I. was later released from prison and was sent back to the halfway house, where he was released on September 29 at midnight.